11:57am Thursday 17 August 2017

Trinity Infant and Child Research Lab Focuses on Parent-Child Interaction

The lab, led by Dr Jean Quigley, Assistant Professor in Psychology, and Dr Elizabeth Nixon, Assistant Professor in Psychology, is a fully equipped AV recording space situated in the School of Psychology to support observational research with infants, children and their families and to provide students with opportunities to observe and learn about developmental research. At the facility researchers are observing, recording, and studying how children and their parents react and respond to each other during play in order to study the relationship between interaction and developmental outcomes, especially language acquisition and development, emotional development, parenting and family systems. 

Current questions being explored by the researchers include: how do children learn and master new skills, what is unique about father-child interaction and does the presence of mothers influence how fathers interact with their children.

Dr Jean Quigley commented: “In the lab we are studying the developmental environments of infants and children and how they relate to aspects of child development. This type of research assumes that the way we routinely interact with our infants and young children influences not only their behaviour and responses in the short term but importantly influences many aspects of their later development. We use primarily structured observation of interactions, supported by classic infant and child testing paradigms, to study the relationship between interaction and developmental outcomes, especially language acquisition and development, emotional development, parenting and family systems.”

“Work in the lab focusses on the identification and analysis of important interpersonal interactional variables for overall optimal child development. The importance of observing and analysing interaction for understanding developmental processes is well established.  We use ‘social psychophysics’ to observe, measure and analyse in detail how infants, children and their parents react and respond to each other in real-time naturalistic interaction, and to study how these patterns of interaction relate to later developmental outcomes.  For example, the ways in which adults respond to and engage babies aids language development during the very important early years.  This type of approach assumes that influences operate between parents and children such that parents’ behaviours shape childrens’ behaviours which, in turn, influence, parents’ behaviours.  We are particularly interested in investigating differences between mothers and fathers (if any) in the role they play in interactions with their children and in finding out more about how fathers interact with and respond to their children.”

“This work can identify parental and familial factors and practices impacting on parenting capacity and family functioning and can provide solid evidence to inform policy and to guide the provision of universal evidence-informed parenting supports. Many of the known risk factors associated with poorer child outcomes are not amenable to intervention (in the case of language development, for instance, infant’s gender, mother’s age, infant temperament) but some can be targeted on foot of evidence-based data and are highly susceptible to interventions (for example, father reading to the child). Environmental influences have been shown to be more influential on language in the early years and for lower SES groups than genetic factors.  Intergenerational transmission of disadvantage can be addressed in part by publicising the message that fathers have a very important role to play in their child’s lives, beyond that of provision of material resources and beyond that provided by the child’s mother. Their distinct parenting style and their role as unique communicative partner for their child needs to be explored and fathers need to be made aware that they are instrumental in all aspects of their child’s academic success and social well-being.” 

 

 

Media Contact

Fiona Tyrrell, Press Officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences | tyrrellf@tcd.ie | 01 896 4337


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